Politics and Infidelity: Weighing Politicians' Public Lives and Public Approval

It happens almost without fail: every campaign season a politician vying for the presidency is accused of impropriety. This year is no exception. GOP candidate Herman Cain has been accused of sexual harassment and of carrying on a lengthy extra-marital affair. Newt Gingrich has also been called on to address his past marital misdeeds. But how much does a presidential candidate's personal life affect the public's approval?

As history shows, the results vary from politician to politician.

Former president Bill Clinton made media headlines in the 90s when it was revealed he had an alleged affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

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Current Republican candidate Herman Cain, an ordained Baptist minister, is facing a slew of sexual harassment and adultery allegations, the most recent one being a13-year affair with accuser Ginger White.

Twice-divorced Republican candidate Newt Gingrich had an affair with current wife Callista Bisek, while he was still married to his second wife.

According to polls, sexual infidelity creates a great disparity in the gender vote. A recent Gallup poll show that 25 percent of men have an unfavorable view of presidential candidate hopeful Herman Cain, while for women the unfavorable vote jumps to 34 percent.

Cain's ratings among women greatly dropped after his sex scandal allegations erupted in late October.

Similarly, Dr. Richard Land's research found that the vast majority of evangelical men trust Newt Gingrich as their president, while less than one-third evangelical women feel the same way.

There are anomalies, however. A Gallup poll shows Clinton's presidential job approval ratings were at 73 percent in Dec. 1998, during the time he was impeached by the House of Representatives, and 68 percent in Feb.1999, at the time he was acquitted by the Senate.

Judgment regarding a candidate's moral misdoings is not irreversible. Clinton has now made a prominent political standing as founder of the William J. Clinton Foundation, and his wife, Hillary Clinton, is the current Secretary of State.

Although as a member of nonprofit organization Family Policy Network Alex Mason is prohibited by federal law to comment on the morals of any specific presidential candidate, he does have an opinion on the overall importance of a candidate's marital history to the Evangelical vote.

"A leader who can't be trusted when he is alone is a leader who can't be trusted anywhere," Mason told The Christian Post.

Mason argues that private morality and public morality are not two separate issues.

"A husband's vow of faithfulness is even weightier than a politician's oath of office. While failure as a politician may bring shame on a nation, failure as a Christian husband brings reproach to Christ, who is never unfaithful to His Church," Mason told CP.

There is, however, the possibility of repentance. Both Gingrich and Clinton have publically admitted to their affairs and apologized for their transgressions.

Gingrich, a Catholic convert, even told CBN's David Brody he "felt compelled to seek God's forgiveness. Not God's understanding, but God's forgiveness."

"[…] the large majority of humans are instinctually forgiving. We do not forget, oh no, but many do forgive," marriage and family therapist Dr. Karen Ruskin told The Christian Post.

Mason asserts that although past transgressions may be forgiven, they may not be forgotten.

"God requires Christians to willingly forgive others, but He does not encourage naiveté," Mason told CP.

"Even if a politician's repentance is genuine, the earthly consequences of his past adulteries are not automatically removed," he added.

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